What distinguishes the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints from other churches?
BY PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY
Through Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed truths that distinguish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from other churches. Permit me to name a few of many doctrines and practices which distinguish us from all other churches.
The first of these … is the manifestation of God Himself and His Beloved Son, the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This grand theophany is, in my judgment, the greatest such event since the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of our Lord in the meridian of time. We have no record of any other event to equal it.
For centuries men gathered and argued concerning the nature of Deity. Constantine assembled scholars of various factions at Nicaea in the year 325. After two months of bitter debate, they compromised on a definition which for generations has been the doctrinal statement among Christians concerning the Godhead. I invite you to read that definition and compare it with the statement of the boy Joseph. He simply says that God stood before him and spoke to him. Joseph could see Him and could hear Him. He was in form like a man, a being of substance. Beside Him was the resurrected Lord, a separate being, whom He introduced as His Beloved Son and with whom Joseph also spoke. I submit that in the short time of that remarkable vision Joseph learned more concerning Deity than all of the scholars and clerics of the past. In this divine revelation there was reaffirmed beyond doubt the reality of the literal Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This knowledge of Deity, hidden from the world for centuries, was the first and great thing which God revealed to His chosen servant.
The Book of Mormon as a companion witness with the Bible
“The Book of Mormon … speaks as a voice from the dust in testimony of the Son of God.”
I speak next of another very important thing which God revealed. The Christian world accepts the Bible as the word of God. Most have no idea of how it came to us.
I have just completed reading a newly published book by a renowned scholar. It is apparent from information which he gives that the various books of the Bible were brought together in what appears to have been an unsystematic fashion. In some cases, the writings were not produced until long after the events they describe. One is led to ask, “Is the Bible true? Is it really the word of God?”
We reply that it is, insofar as it is translated correctly. The hand of the Lord was in its making. But it now does not stand alone. There is another witness of the significant and important truths found therein.
Scripture declares that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established”.
The Book of Mormon has come forth by the gift and power of God. It speaks as a voice from the dust in testimony of the Son of God. It speaks of His birth, of His ministry, of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and of His appearance to the righteous in the land Bountiful on the American continent.
It is a tangible thing that can be handled, that can be read, that can be tested. It carries within its covers a promise of its divine origin. Millions now have put it to the test and found it to be a true and sacred record. …
As the Bible is the testament of the Old World, the Book of Mormon is the testament of the New. They go hand in hand in declaration of Jesus as the Son of the Father. …
This sacred book, which came forth as a revelation of the Almighty, is indeed another testament of the divinity of our Lord.
Priesthood authority and Church organization
Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. … I have read [a] book recently [that] deals with the Apostasy of the primitive Church. If the authority of that Church was lost, how was it to be replaced?
Priesthood authority came from the only place it could come, and that is from heaven. It was bestowed under the hands of those who held it when the Savior walked the earth. …
How beautiful is the unfolding of the pattern of restoration which led to the organization of the Church in the year 1830. … The very name of the Church came of revelation. Whose Church was it? Was it Joseph Smith’s? Was it Oliver Cowdery’s? No, it was the Church of Jesus Christ restored to earth in these latter days.
The family is eternal
Another great and singular revelation given to the Prophet was the plan for the eternal life of the family.
The family is a creation of the Almighty. It represents the most sacred of all relationships. It represents the most serious of all undertakings. It is the fundamental organization of society.
Through the revelations of God to His Prophet came the doctrine and authority under which families are sealed together not only for this life but for all eternity.
The innocence of little children
The innocence of little children is another revelation which God has given through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph. The general practice is the baptism of infants to take away the effects of what is described as the sin of Adam and Eve. Under the doctrine of the Restoration, baptism is for the remission of one’s individual and personal sins. It becomes a covenant between God and man. It is performed at the age of accountability, when people are old enough to recognize right from wrong. It is by immersion, in symbolism of the death and burial of Jesus Christ and His coming forth in the Resurrection.
Salvation for the dead
I go on to mention another revealed truth. We are told that God is no respecter of persons, and yet, in no other church of which I am aware, is provision made for those beyond the veil of death to receive every blessing which is afforded the living. The great doctrine of salvation for the dead is unique to this Church. … The dead are given the same opportunity as the living. Again, what a glorious and wonderful provision the Almighty has made through His revelation to His Prophet.
The nature, purpose, and potential of God’s children
The eternal nature of man has been revealed. We are sons and daughters of God. God is the Father of our spirits. We lived before we came here. We had personality. We were born into this life under a divine plan. We are here to test our worthiness, acting in the agency which God has given to us. When we die we shall go on living. Our eternal life is comprised of three phases: one, our premortal existence; two, our mortal existence; and three, our postmortal existence. In death we die to this world and step through the veil into the sphere we are worthy to enter. This, again, is a unique, singular, and precious doctrine of this Church which has come through revelation.
I offer this brief summary of the tremendous outpouring of knowledge and authority from God upon the head of His Prophet. … There is one more that I must mention. This is the principle of modern revelation. The article of faith which the Prophet wrote declares:
“We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”
A growing church, a church that is spreading across the earth in these complex times, needs constant revelation from the throne of heaven to guide it and move it forward.
With prayer and anxious seeking of the will of the Lord, we testify that direction is received, that revelation comes, and that the Lord blesses His Church as it moves on its path of destiny.
On the solid foundation of the Prophet Joseph’s divine calling and the revelations of God, which came through him, we go forward.
Standing as the 15th in line from Joseph Smith and bearing the prophetic mantle which came upon him, I solemnly declare my testimony that the Prophet Joseph’s account of [the events of the Restoration] is true, that the Father … bore witness of the divinity of His Son, that the Son instructed the boy prophet, and that there followed a train of events which led to the organization of “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.”
This article is taken from the volume titled "Teachings of Presidents of the Church - Gordon B. Hinckley"